RepositoryDerbyshire Record Office
Archive Reference / Library Class No.D8760/F/FEP/1/1
TitleLetters from John Franklin to Eleanor Anne Porden, later his wife
DescriptionThey had originally met after Franklin had returned from the expedition to the North Pole in 1818. Having visited the ships H.M.S. Isabella and Alexander before they were due to set off to investigate Baffin Bay, she had written a poem called "The Arctic Expeditions", which was published in March 1818. This poem had come to the attention of Franklin, who had commanded H.M.S. Trent, one of the two ships sent to travel to the North Pole and returned to England in October 1818. Through mutual friends, the Thomsons, they met up in January and soon became attached to each other. Not long afterwards Franklin left on another Arctic expedition, this time overland to the coast of the north American continent (1819-1822). Although neither party had declared any love before he left, it became apparent after his return to England in October 1822, that both had been thinking very much about each other. Their attachment became stronger, and they seem to have got engaged some time in the spring of 1823. The period of their engagement was not without its problems, as Eleanor had concerns about their relationship on a few occasions. These centred around her desire to carry on with her writing of poetry, which she thought Franklin was against at one stage, and around their differences in religious outlook, with Franklin being much more pious than she felt herself to be. Franklin was able to allay whatever fears she had, and the couple were married at Marylebone on 19 August 1823. They lived as a married couple at 55 Devonshire Street, London, The had one child, Eleanor Isabella, who was born on 3 June 1824. By this time Franklin had obtained the command of another Artctic land expedition and was heavily involved in preparations for it. Unfortunately, there were increasing concerns about his wife's state of health. By early February 1825, when he was due to depart on his expedition, it had become increasingly evident that Eleanor was close to dying. In spite of Franklin's inclination to stay, she persuaded him to leave her and carry on with his mission. He set sail from England on 16 February 1825, but Eleanor died six days later, the cause being diagnosed as tuberculosis.

Twenty one of the letters cover the period from when Franklin returned to England in Oct 1822 to July 1823, just before their marriage. One letter was sent to his wife while he was visiting his family in Linconshire in December, prior to setting off on his second land expedition. The remaining four letters were written by him before he was aware that Eleanor had actually died. The last letter contains a brief postscript at the end that he found out about her death at 7pm on 22 April 1825.
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Archive CreatorEleanor Anne Porden, later Eleanor Franklin (1795-1825)
Gell family of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth
TermNaval personnel
Navy officers

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Related Names
Name (click for further details)
Porden; Eleanor Anne (1795-1825); poet and first wife of explorer Sir John Franklin
Franklin; Sir; John (1786-1847); naval officer and Arctic explorer
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